This is the story, in verse and vingette of my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey- he described himself as “A poet and professional fig picker”. Always blithe with money, yet paying his way. I found this poem in his “Urban Pentimento” journal, on a laboring job, Godfrey had given the okay for the on site “Port-A- John” be strapped shut, hoisted onto a truck, and driven away, not knowing the boss man was sitting inside…he indeed was adrift, seeking a new job.   

Tonight, I hurried for home in a spring shower, weighted down with sundries. I grabbed a quick coffee to enjoy as the rain eased, leaning on the harbor wall for that first, hot sip. Water had pooled cup’s lid rim, tasting both sweet and cool before the hot, bitter richness…now I knew what Godfrey meant when he muttered about craving rainwater coffee…and watching ships head out. If you dislike coffee, any other hot beverage will do..

Godfrey writes-  Still cold and dark mid April morning. And here I am, adrift in the city. In line at a cafe’ came a sailor clad for foul weather, he spoke softly- said “I can tell by the cuffs of your coat that you come from away”. Indeed so, I replied, are you bound for warmer shores this rainy day?”

When I bid him farewell cup in hand I returned to the street. The first sip I took was of rainwater coffee, I was wet chilled through as the good brew  warmed me …recalled from lost youth a vivid memory.

Rainwater coffee, kneeling in the sand, fire coaxed from damp drift wood, scrape the last grounds out, bottom of the tin. Great, fat rain on hissing twigs, fog bound the sheltered bay I camp in.

Lonely,  concrete  tub entombed city tree, at the bus stop crows perch, check me out with unfiltered cheek, crow curiosity.  Spring rain pours from the nebulous roof, of a decrepit shelter, where sodden religious literature has been scattered, it sweetens the rim of my paper cup of coffee. My coat cuffs worn and tattered in the wearing. I drink rainwater coffee mid the bitter eyed, waiting, shift workers swearing.

My ship, the #50 bus, lurches from the curb, bow on into the storm it pulls away. I close my eyes as we set sail, remember the line squalls, recall the Southern sky at night, and the taste of rainwater coffee in the gale…


WHEN THEY DREAM AT THAT AGE…From Worzel and Godfrey

Worzel here- It occurred to me,  that long first year of Godfrey’s passing, I had not seen the odd, elderly chap who came into our luggage shop on Wednesdays, to smell the suitcases and satchels, never buy anything, and politely get on his way.

When Godfrey minded the shop, the two would converse, study maps and the globe, play scrabble in Welsh- “John understands Welsh”, he explained. Then came this morning, there he waited, in a blue and white van by the curb, waiting as I opened the shop, John strode in, smelled the mid sized plaid suitcase on display, paid in cash, ” I am for the road”, he bid me farewell, later in the year I learned his story.  

Godfrey would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets- and I have included one of his “lost” poems, in honor of Peace Woman Hazel Rennie, and one for the #50 bus driver, who stopped the bus to help a fledgling crow out of the road.   

Hazel- Brave and Wise- I feel strongly, without question, that Hazel’s bold spirit is still down on The Common. Bending low over smoldering twig fire, damp to the knee, I recall her worn red jacket, squinting in the smoke, handed me a great wodge of fruitcake, and a chipped mug of dubious billy tea.

Hazel’s brown, muddy boots broke trail that man will never pave or the gorse grow over. May her name long be spoken where Peace Women gather, her poetry and story told till justice prevail. Round the fire at Aldermaston, in our memories of her laughter, long ago and across the ocean, Hazel is still down on The Common.

Stillwater Rookery- Wrong side of the tracks, on the banks of the inlet, where tall cedars still grow, lives a Rookery of Crows. And of that great rabble, crows of the mid city, one wears a red band, he likes who he pleases, and should you be chosen, he will  sit, gently crow footed, on your shoulder or hand.

“I seek higher wisdom, and in my seeking, it more often finds me”, it came  as did”Canuck” from Stillwater Rookery, scooped from doom on the street, raised by hand, never caged he is free. Still he brings shiny objects, ribbons, keys, bells and nails, he loves cool bathwater, he takes delight knocking over my iced-tea.”

In the heart of the city is a Rookery of crows, one has ridden on the Sky Train, he has been interviewed on T.V.  There is a higher wisdom in “Canuck”, crow of the Stillwater Rookery.

John on The Road-It made the headlines – “Missing Seniors- Two elderly women and a man, 73, wandered off from their retirement village- “One lady had joined the passing Gay Pride Parade, and was located safe at their rally, the other collected from a pub several miles away. The elderly man simply left a note- “John has gone, on the road”.   

He was caught, up early, in private watching travel shows. Taking an interest in trains, and books written by hobos.Dumped the nuts and bolts, and old coins from the tin Sierra Cup he bought some thirty years ago…John embarrassed his adult children, drove his golf cart on the highway, waving to all and sundry.

Spent his time with curmudgeon mates did John, over coffee in that greasy doughnut cafe’.

On a Sunday drive the family mentioned, a retirement residence with “view across the rose bushes.” Much more appealing than the ramshackle “Old Mans Home”, where roast beef was served each Monday, and he’d never be alone. John sideways smiled, he was quite contented on his own.

Farewell to the other old fellows he Yarned with. Fred by the window slowly stirs his cup, without looking up,” well John, we hate to see you go.” Bill, of Lading, always late for work, hurried by wearing safety vest, clapped him on the shoulder, wished his friend the best.

Captain Mudd was always angry, he built a float home of crates, pallets and rubbish, anchored his raft in a cove on the bay, lived at peace until told was not allowed to, angry since his comfy floating shack was towed away.  Captain Mudd asked, perhaps if I come along on the road with you, may find a better harbor, build my raft anew.

Shirtless Bob sat down,” I lost my shirt”, he’d tell anyone, my job, then home and family down the drain”. “When you get there, stop in Dauphin, I’d like to see pictures from my hometown again…

Pat, the baker, glazing doughnuts on a tray in her jaded manner thought,” he’ll be back in a week, when they dream at that age, they never get very far away”.  When they dream at that age, John pondered, he had always been the responsible one, man of integrity…

Easing the old, newly purchased camper van down the off ramp of the ferry, it is springtime, the roads rain slick, but he is in no hurry. Clearing sprawl of city, he heads her east up the green Fraser Valley.

Ahead is “Seldom Come By”, “Spuzzum”, “Balongy”, places noted on his map many years before by Godfrey. Directions to a waterfall, middle of the Manitoba prairie. John has all he needs, and by the fire that night reads from a boyhood book of poetry. Come morning he writes on fresh journal page…words of wisdom..when they dream at my age.

Wee Packets of Honey-I will share this memory, of when myself and Godfrey, stopped off in our rambling for cream scones and coffee. On our way out he would snitch the wee packets of honey set out by the tea urn. I’d slap his wrist, Godfrey did not worry or learn. Even when the honey pack leaked in his pocket, he was sticky, but unbowed, unconcerned when the coffee shop cashier scowled.

Wee packets of honey filled up a jar and a full kitchen drawer. “When older and cranky, may you have something sweet, always to remember by me when you dream”, Wrote Godfrey, and indeed, I do, still have snitched honey Sunday mornings with cream scones and coffee.